By, Tina Ann Forkner
Nineteen years ago, I saw her face for the first time, but before I was able to cuddle my baby close, she was whisked away by nurses, along with my heart. I was bereft. I will never forget the ache I felt as I waited for them to give her back. During the birth, she had turned herself just a little, her shoulder somehow temporarily blocking her exit from me and entry into this new world in a perfect analogy of our future.
(Tina Forkner and her daughter, Hannah)
Little did I understand at that moment how she would pull the same move again and again over the next eighteen years, pulling away from my mothering, turning back toward me because she wasn’t quite ready to go out on her own, then off she would go into the world again. At that moment, I was only focused on having her close. They told me she was fine, which is the best news a momma can hear, and then I will never forget what the nurse said as she checked over my squalling baby and started to wrap her in the soft flannel blanket.
“What’s her name?”
“Hannah,” I managed to say, just loud enough to be heard. Her father confirmed it. The nurse smiled at me and turned her attention back to Hannah.
“Hello, Hannah. Do you know the story about the other Hannah, the one in the Bible?”
I felt a smile that was as small as Hannah’s tiny baby hands flapping in the air as the nurse leaned over and cheerfully began telling a story. Maybe I could wait just another minute or two, even though it felt like an eternity. The nurse was telling my baby a story.
It felt right that the first words my baby would hear in this world would be a story. After months of reading to my daughter while she was still in the womb, I couldn’t help but feel a temporary calm settle around the room. I couldn’t help but think she already knew what a story was, and that’s why she shushed as the nurse spoke.
Since the day of her birth, my daughter has heard numerous, maybe thousands, of stories. I’ll never forget when in Kindergarten she picked up a coffee table book in my living room and started reading from the quotes in the book. My husband and I were stunned, but we shouldn’t have been. From inside the womb, and from her the moment of her birth, she was destined to be a reader.
Words have always been a part of my relationship with my daughter, going from picture books, to read-a-louds, to reading chapter books independently. Together we moved on from the Rainbow Magic fairy books to novels by Sharon Creech, Mary Downing Hahn, and Rick Riordan. This sharing of books was the start of our very own mother-daughter book club. In high school we read books by Suzanne Collins, Kiera Cass, and S.E. Hinton. We continued to branch out in our reading as Hannah branched out in her life. As I urged her to try new authors, I also gave her gentle nudges toward adulthood. In response, she did that push and pull move that children do as they prepare to leave us, and I did the move that mothers do. I practiced letting go. It’s not an easy move.
Now, as I sit here typing this and thinking about my daughter who is in college, it is not lost on me that the story the nurse told my daughter, the one about the other Hannah, was about a woman who was blessed with a child she never dreamed she would have. It was a happy story, except that in return for God’s favor, she promised to take her baby back to live in the temple while he was still just a little boy. She kept her promise, but how her heart must have ached to let him go!
I can imagine it now, after I’ve raised my own child and had to let her go. I didn’t know it back then, when all I wanted was to hold my baby, but the ache I felt in the delivery room as a nurse told my baby a story, will never go away.
Letting them go is never easy, whether it’s waiting to hold them for the first time, dropping them off on their first day of kindergarten, or moving them into their college dorm room. The ache to hold your baby never changes, but other things stay the same too.
We started with a story, and it continues, only now it’s hers.
Tina Ann Forkner writes women’s fiction. When she isn’t writing or traveling with her husband, she is a substitute teacher in Cheyenne, Wyoming where she has lived for twenty years. Tina is the mom/stepmom of three children, all in college, and the author of The Real Thing.